Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed; Denial of Accommodation Request Insufficient

In Sampson Blair v. SUNY University at Buffalo, 2020 WL 695870 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 11, 2020), the court dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim.

While the court noted that the Second Circuit has not yet decided whether a hostile work environment claim may be made under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it observed that district courts in the Second Circuits have held that a hostile work environment claim is actionable under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. It further noted that courts apply the standards applicable to a hostile work environment claim in the context of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and that the standard is a “demanding one.”

Here is the standard, as summarized by the court:

To state a hostile work environment claim, a plaintiff must allege (1) that “the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult…that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment” and (2) that “a specific basis exists for imputing the conduct that created the hostile environment to the employer.” Lekettey v. City of New York, 637 Fed. Appx. 659, 661 (2d Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Isolated incidents or offensive comments, while condemnable, do not establish an abusive and hostile workplace environment. Robinson v. Dibble, 613 Fed. Appx. 9, 13 (2d Cir.2015) (summary order) (sporadic offensive comments by coworkers related to worker’s gender and mental health issues did not state a hostile work environment claim). See also, Dollinger v. New York State Ins. Fund, 726 F. App’x 828, 831 (2d Cir. 2018) (summary order) (one harassing communication referring to plaintiff’s HIV/AIDS did not suffice to allege pervasive conditions); Tolbert v. Smith, 790 F.3d 427, 439 (2d Cir. 2015) (two comments, only one of which explicitly referred to race, and incidents with no causal connection to race, did not state a claim).

Applying the law, the court explaiend:

Blair argues that the ongoing denial of his accommodation request, the “illegal condition precedent” upon which Street conditioned his accommodation, and his diminishment in stature demonstrate the requisite hostility. (Docket No. 6 at 15-16.) But these facts alone, even taken as true, do not rise to the level of pervasive abuse required to state a claim. The delay in receiving the stool from the start of the semester in late August to October 20 may have been inconvenient, but it does not demonstrate “pervasive” hostility. Street’s asking Blair to sign a statement about other employment and his perceived loss of status are also insufficient. Blair has not alleged a workplace “permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult.” Lettekey, 637 Fed.Appx. at 661. Blair’s RA hostile work environment claim against SUNY will therefore be dismissed.